St. Francis through the Eyes of . . . Updated

Several weeks ago I gave a conference to our Third Order in New Bedford on St. Francis and his charism entitled “St. Francis through the Eyes of St. Bonaventure, through the Eyes of Pope Benedict, through the Eyes of Pope Francis.”  It is largely based on three general audiences that Pope Benedict delivered in March of 2010 (3, 10, 17), about St. Bonaventure, his life, his influence on the Franciscan Order and his theology.

Pope Benedict is somewhat of an authority on St. Bonventure, having written a thesis on the Seraphic Doctor’s theology of history.  Some have said that it is Pope Benedict’s understanding of this teaching of St. Bonaventure’s that is a key to his papacy.  At least, I would contend that it is a key to what Pope Benedict called the “hermeneutic of continuity.”

I believe this is all helpful to understanding where the Church is headed under Pope Francis and may help to explain the style and content of his comments, particularly in his interviews.  In the following audio recording of my conference one will hear me make reference to the  interview with Eugenio Scalfari, in which, according to Scalfari, the Holy Father stated that that the most the “most serious of the evils that afflict the world these days are youth unemployment and the loneliness of the old.”  I suggested, with Zygmunt Bauman, writing in L’Osservatore Romano,  that Pope Francis may be saying something more than is suggested in the all the commentary.  Since I gave the conference the Scalfari interview has been removed from the Vatican website, presumably because Scalfari’s recollection of the Pope’s words leaves something to be desired.  This is all worth keeping in mind.

In any case, even if the Holy Father said nothing like the quote above, I believe it remains true that his emphasis on the relational aspects of the new evangelization will continue to be key to his pontificate and its advisability will continue to be debated.

Of that debate, I will have more to say in the next few days.  Here is the conference:

Update: Scalfari Confesses to having published his own invention under the title “interview.”

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A second witness…

Quote

A second witness that St. Francis gives us, noted the pontiff, is that “everyone who follows Christ receives true peace, the peace that Christ alone can give, a peace which the world cannot give.”

Pope Francis reflected that often people associate peace with the great Saint of Assisi, but that few go deeper into the peace which he “received, experienced and lived,” that is “the peace of Christ” which comes from “the love of the Cross.”

“It is the peace which the Risen Jesus gave to his disciples when he stood in their midst and said: ‘Peace be with you!’”

“Franciscan peace is not something saccharine,” he said, “That is not the real Saint Francis! Nor is it a kind of pantheistic harmony with forces of the cosmos… That is not Franciscan either; it is a notion some people have invented!”

“The peace of Saint Francis is the peace of Christ, and it is found by those who ‘take up’ their ‘yoke,’ namely, Christ’s commandment: Love one another as I have loved you.”

The Holy Father urged that the “yoke” of his patron Saint “cannot be borne with arrogance, presumption or pride, but only with meekness and humbleness of heart.”

Pope Francis concluded his reflections by looking at St. Francis’ witness to respect, “safeguard and protect all that God has created,” in the world, noting the most importantly the Saint’s “love for every human being.”

“Francis was a man of harmony and peace,” the Holy Father recalled, “From this City of Peace, I repeat with all the strength and the meekness of love: Let us respect creation, let us not be instruments of destruction! Let us respect each human being.”

May there be an end to armed conflicts which cover the earth with blood; may the clash of arms be silenced; and everywhere may hatred yield to love, injury to pardon, and discord to unity.”

The Pope prayed in particular for peace in the Holy Land, Syria and the Middle East.

—Pope Francis

Francis on Francis

Some people wanted to know why the Bishop of Rome wished to be called Francis. Some thought of Francis Xavier, Francis De Sales, and also Francis of Assisi. I will tell you the story. During the election, I was seated next to the Archbishop Emeritus of São Paolo and Prefect Emeritus of the Congregation for the Clergy, Cardinal Claudio Hummes: a good friend, a good friend! When things were looking dangerous, he encouraged me. And when the votes reached two thirds, there was the usual applause, because the Pope had been elected. And he gave me a hug and a kiss, and said: “Don’t forget the poor!” And those words came to me: the poor, the poor. Then, right away, thinking of the poor, I thought of Francis of Assisi. Then I thought of all the wars, as the votes were still being counted, till the end. Francis is also the man of peace. That is how the name came into my heart: Francis of Assisi. For me, he is the man of poverty, the man of peace, the man who loves and protects creation; these days we do not have a very good relationship with creation, do we? He is the man who gives us this spirit of peace, the poor man … How I would like a Church which is poor and for the poor! Afterwards, people were joking with me. “But you should call yourself Hadrian, because Hadrian VI was the reformer, we need a reform…” And someone else said to me: “No, no: your name should be Clement”. “But why?” “Clement XV: thus you pay back Clement XIV who suppressed the Society of Jesus!” These were jokes. I love all of you very much, I thank you for everything you have done. I pray that your work will always be serene and fruitful, and that you will come to know ever better the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the rich reality of the Church’s life. I commend you to the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Star of Evangelization, and with cordial good wishes for you and your families, each of your families. I cordially impart to all of you my blessing. Thank you.

Francis, March 16, 2013

Poverty, peace, and I would say reform.  Never mind Hadrian, as I pointed out in my last post, St. Francis was, in fact, a reformer.  The rebuilding of the Church, which is the essence of the Franciscan vocation, is precisely about reform.

From the same address, the following is also very Franciscan and corresponds quite well with what I wrote about faith in the pastoral wisdom of the Church always being assent to Christ.  Francis also notes that Benedict’s decision and all that followed has been the work of the Holy Spirit:

Christ is the Church’s Pastor, but his presence in history passes through the freedom of human beings; from their midst one is chosen to serve as his Vicar, the Successor of the Apostle Peter. Yet Christ remains the centre, not the Sucessor of Peter: Christ, Christ is the centre. Christ is the fundamental point of reference, the heart of the Church. Without him, Peter and the Church would not exist or have reason to exist. As Benedict XVI frequently reminded us, Christ is present in Church and guides her. In everything that has occurred, the principal agent has been, in the final analysis, the Holy Spirit. He prompted the decision of Benedict XVI for the good of the Church; he guided the Cardinals in prayer and in the election.

And here are two episcopal reflections on the choice of the name: Archbishop Chaput and  Archbishop Aquila (H/T NewAdvent)

Benedict and Francis

Most Catholics around the world are giving thanks to God for a new pope.  A few of us are already pontificating about the future.  This is my own little reflection on the relationship  between the pontificates of Pope Benedict XVI and Pope Francis.

Benedict’s Plan

I believe that in order to fully appreciate the events of the last month or so, one must consider that we have a new Holy Father because, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, Pope Benedict carefully formulated a plan.  The evidence shows that he did not just wake up one morning and say: “I have had it.  I just can’t do it anymore.”  The historical facts indicate that he was considering a potential abdication through most of his pontificate.  I think it is also fair to say that he was aware of all the potential outcomes.  The man, before anything else is a thinker.  I don’t believe he was surprised by any of the reactions or criticisms.  He had prayed for a long time and had thought the whole thing through.  When he made his decision he was definitive. Continue reading